Ja­pan rocked by sumo scan­dal

Grand champ faces bot­tle as­sault al­le­ga­tions

The Star Malaysia - - World -

Tokyo: The highly cer­e­mo­nial and or­dered world of sumo was rocked as al­le­ga­tions emerged that one of the sport’s wor­shipped grand cham­pi­ons smashed a beer bot­tle over a fel­low wrestler’s head.

Mon­go­lian y okozuna, or grand cham­pion, Haru­ma­fuji is­sued an apol­ogy yes­ter­day be­fore the Ja­panese me­dia, as of­fi­cials said they were prob­ing the in­ci­dent that has led to his ab­sence from an on­go­ing tour­na­ment.

The 33-year-old Haru­ma­fuji hit his coun­try­man Takanoiwa, 27, last month when Mon­go­lian wrestlers gath­ered over drinks af­ter the au­tumn tour­na­ment, sev­eral me­dia re­ported.

“I deeply apol­o­gise over Takanoiwa’s in­jury,” Haru­ma­fuji – one of three reign­ing Mon­go­lian y okozuna – told re­porters at his train­ing site in the western Ja­panese city of Daza­ifu.

But he de­flected fur­ther ques­tions to the “sta­ble master” who runs the camp.

The an­cient sport has an ex­tremely strict pro­to­col, and y okozuna are ex­pected to be be­yond moral re­proach in ad­di­tion to show­ing su­pe­rior strength and tech­nique in the ring. Wrestlers are not even al­lowed to ex­press emo­tions when they win as this is seen as in­con­sid­er­ate to the loser.

Tomokatsu Taniguchi, head of le­gal af­fairs for the sumo as­so­ci­a­tion, said that Takanoiwa’s sta­ble master had sub­mit­ted a doc­tor’s cer­tifi­cate re­gard­ing a head in­jury that would re­quire two weeks to heal.

A link be­tween the in­jury and the al­le­ga­tion is not con­firmed, added Taniguchi, as of­fi­cials are still inves- tigat­ing the mat­ter.

Haru­ma­fuji is viewed as hav­ing a skil­ful tech­nique that al­lows him to off­set a rel­a­tively small body weight – at a mere 137kg, he is one of the light­est in the sport’s top di­vi­sion.

He emerged vic­to­ri­ous at the most re­cent tour­na­ment in Septem­ber in Tokyo, edg­ing out Ja­pan’s Goeido in a thrilling last day bout.

“Haru­ma­fuji will be ab­sent from the third day” of the cur­rent tour­na­ment in Fukuoka, western Ja­pan, the sumo as­so­ci­a­tion tweeted with­out giv­ing a rea­son.

Tales of ex­treme phys­i­cal abuse are be­com­ing more com­mon in sumo – Ja­pan’s national sport – which is char­ac­terised by harsh train­ing and strict hi­er­ar­chy. It has also been hit in re­cent years by bout-fix­ing ru­mours and il­le­gal gam­bling.

— AP

In hot wa­ter: Haru­ma­fuji speak­ing to jour­nal­ists af­ter morn­ing train­ing for the on­go­ing Kyushu Grand Sumo Tour­na­ment in Daza­ifu, south­west­ern Ja­pan.

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